One of the first questions I receive when discussing digital menu boards is “what’s the ROI?” Although that’s a very important question to ask before making any large purchase or investment in equipment, it’s not easy to answer. Your ROI will depend on how the equipment is used. If you use it the same as your current menu boards your ROI is 0 or near 0. I can show you a couple of the major chains that are doing that. In this article, I will give some examples of how digital menu boards can be used that will make the ROI question easier to answer. Since digital boards have so many more capabilities than traditional boards, a better question would be “what’s the ROI on the additional capabilities?”
Menu boards are the primary tool used to communicate with customers in your restaurant. Digital allows you to do that more effectively, more quickly, more often, easier and at a lower graphics cost. To understand the difference in cost between traditional and digital menu boards you should determine the total cost of ownership of each system over at least a five year period. The cost of each should include all hardware, content (including packaging, distribution, freight, and labor to change the boards), software, connection cost, and maintenance.
If you determine the cost of digital boards to be higher, is it worth the extra investment for the increased features and capabilities? If you don’t use the extra capabilities to increase short and long-term sales the answer is simply no. In order to answer this question, you need to know the capabilities of digital boards and how to use them.
There are many advantages to digital menu boards over static. How much would each of the following advantages increase your sales and profits?
Dayparting• There are no limits to the number of day parts you can use. • All the information on your boards can be relevant for any daypart or condition. Usually, only the items for sale when the customer is viewing the boards will be seen. This can vary by region or individual location. • You can change the look of your board for each day part. Certain colors, designs, and fonts look more appetizing in different day parts. • You could have menu variations based on regions.
Instant changing of content• Prices can be changed more quickly and easily based on cost and supply. Prices can be different for each day part. Many companies have learned they can charge more and offer different portion sizes for each day part. • Prices can be lower during low traffic times (such as happy hours) of the day to increase the effectiveness of your site’s capacity and to reduce wasted food. • Items for sale could change quickly and more effectively based on weather conditions, inventory, season, holidays and current events.
Appeal to customers and customer experience• Eliminating all paper and plastic graphics would certainly improve your “go green” initiative. • Increased capability and lower cost to do local promotions for local sports teams and events to increase sales and promote restaurants as members of the neighborhood. • Could have bilingual content in areas with a high percentage of non-English speaking customers • You can use motion to attract attention and increase retention. • Can reduce the actual, or more importantly, the perceived wait time. • Can add other senses such as sound or scent to stimulate the appetite.